Thinking about taking the plunge to become a nurse practitioner (NP)? Not sure how long the educational process takes? To give a quick answer, becoming a licensed NP can take anywhere from five to 10 years from the start, depending on the pace of your studies. In this blog, we take a detailed look at each step of the process and its average duration, so that you have a better grasp of how long it takes to become an NP.
Nursing School: 4 Years
To become an NP, you must first obtain a Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree in nursing, a course of study that takes about four years to complete. Acceptance to a graduate NP program is dependent on whether you have a BSN.
During nursing school, you’ll take general education classes like any other college student, but you’ll also start to take nursing-specific courses that will serve as the foundation of your future career. During this time, you can start to figure out exactly what type of nursing you want to practice, as prospective NPs choose a certain patient focus during graduate school.
You must have a BSN to become an NP; unfortunately, a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is not an adequate prerequisite for a graduate NP degree.
Fortunately, as you get to the end of your four-year nursing program, you can start to study for your registered nurse (RN) license, which is also needed for graduate NP school.
RN Licensure: Three to Six Months
You must have completed a BSN program before taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a licensed registered nurse. In total, preparing for this exam can take a few months, but you can start getting ready for it as you finish your studies.
If you time things right, you might be able to take the NCLEX right after you earn your BSN, as well as a license in the state where you’d like to practice, which will help pave the way for acceptance into graduate school.
NP Graduate School: Two to Five Years
When you apply to graduate school, you will choose whether you want to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These two paths differ in duration: earning an MSN takes about two years, while a DNP could take three to five years of study.
When you’re in graduate school, you’ll choose a patient focus, which is similar to a specialty and will inform your education. Some options include:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute or Primary Care
- Family Practice
- Psychiatric Mental Health
- Women’s Health
Like when you were studying for your BSN, you can begin studying for your NP licensure exams when you’re finishing up your graduate degree. You’ll want to find the national NP licensure exam for your specific patient focus, and once you’ve completed that, all you need to do is apply for NP licensure in the state you want to practice.
Become a Locum Tenens NP with Barton
After you’ve become an NP, consider taking a locum tenens job with Barton Associates. A locum tenens provider is a travel healthcare professional who takes assignments at understaffed facilities across the country.